Community Cat Programs - A win for cats!

Community Cat Programs - A win for cats!

Want a hot tip? More cats are leaving the Harris County shelter alive than ever before! Thanks to a partnership with Best Friends Animal Society, the future is bright for the cats of Harris County— in just the first year of the Community Cat Program (CCP), the euthanasia of cats and kittens was reduced almost 80%. More widely known as TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) or RTF (Return to Field), CCPs allow outdoor-dwelling cats to return quickly to their homes and free up shelter space, staff time, and other resources to focus on other shelter pets in need, like young kittens or at-risk dogs.

CCPs don’t just help the shelter, but empower the whole community to do better for their cats by offering free trap loans to the residents of unincorporated Harris County along with free vouchers for spay/neuter surgery and vaccinations. Any resident of unincorporated Harris County can contact the CCP to arrange to pick up traps and vouchers! 

Cats who have participated in this program receive an ear-tip, which is the surgical removal under anesthesia of the tip of their left ear. If you see an ear-tipped cat in your community, let him do his thing unless he is in distress! These cats do not need to return to the shelter as long as they are healthy, and are no longer adding to the cat population.

While cats and kittens only made up 39% of animals entering into the Harris County Animal Shelter  in 2017, they made up 69% of the animals euthanized. Best Friends Animal Society sought to understand why cats were falling behind in the otherwise very positive trend in lifesaving at the shelter. 

In 2017, 2,440 cats were euthanized at the shelter. After the implementation of the Community Cat Program (CCP), that number dropped to just 540 in 2018. 

What is a community cat?

You might have heard of a feral cat before, but feral cats are just one type of cat that may be living outdoors. Community cats are those who make their homes outside, whether they are friendly with humans or more reticent. These cats roam freely and either have human caretakers in the neighborhood or have another steady source of food. 

How are they identified?

  • A community cat who has already been spayed or neutered is identified visually by an ear-tip of their left ear. This makes it easy for animal control officers and caretakers to know that a cat has been sterilized, and should be left alone unless she is in distress. 
  • CCPs help to manage the population size of free-roaming cats by sterilizing as many cats as possible, and preventing the spread of disease through vaccination.

What kind of care do they receive?

Community cats who have run through a TNR or RTF program are spayed or neutered, given rabies and FVRCP vaccines, and have a small section of their ear surgically removed so that they can easily be identified from a distance.

What can I do to help?

If you’d like to volunteer with the CCP at Harris County, or would like to find out more about how to help community cats in Harris County, please email

Help save a shelter animal at HCAS.